This was first published in October 2009 on this blog.
“In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:5)
“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3-5)
I traveled across country in a VW van when I was 32 years old. Off the beaten trail in Arizona is a border town called Bisbee. It is a wealthy town, having been the seat of the most lucrative copper mine in American history. The mine closed after a hundred years in 1975 but almost immediately re-opened as a tour attraction. Retired miners give the tours, which start in the changing room. You must don a hard hat, a raincoat and a miner’s light.
The miner’s light is key.
The tour guide seats you on a train and chug-chug off you go, 1500 feet down into the earth. He talks along the way, which is lit with each tour member’s hat, the guide’s hat, and lamps on the walls. You see veins of metals and precious things in the walls of the very earth. You look ahead to dark tunnels descending deep. You admire the courage of the miners who extracted material from the earth day after day, living without sunlight as a trade for their pay.
It is pretty exciting and you feel exotic for having chosen this tour. Then the coup de grace comes. At the deep point, the miner tells you about collapses and bad things that happen. He isn’t ghoulish about it, nor does he dwell for long on this unfortunate but practical aspect of life under the earth. But he gives a warning, and he says, “I am going to turn off the lights and I ask you to do the same on the count of three.” We do and then … total darkness.
I never forgot the moment the lights went out. We know the dark, it comes once a day. But there is always some light. Even if you work third shift and sleep in the day, there is always a sliver of light coming in, annoying you. The darkness isn’t really dark, only dim, even at night, because there are stars. There is always light, somewhere.
Not in a mine. The darkness took me quite by surprise. You would not expect “darkness” to have so many qualities, but it does. First, its totality. The total absence of light was just that, total. There was no difference in opening or closing your eyes, it was the same. You could not see your hand in front of your face. Second, it was oppressive in the sense that it weighed heavily. You felt cloaked in it. It more than surrounded you, it permeated you. You did not know where your ‘self’ ended and the darkness began. Last, it felt alive. Yes, alive. No, it was not evil or ghostly down there and it didn’t feel supernatural. The darkness simply felt more than part of the air, it felt like a thing unto its own.
All that in ten seconds.
The miner did not leave the lights off for long. It is dangerous and it is scary to be in a mine without light, and he just wanted to give us a momentary sense of what it was like for trapped miners.
When John says that “the darkness comprehended it not” he means that Satan is total darkness. So is sin. Satan’s dark retreats from God’s light. Paltry as the lamps were against the imminent absence of light, the dark retreated from it. As long as the Church exists on earth in her present form, the light will shine because it shines through men directly from the Holy Throne of God, and darkness will retreat.
There will come a time when the darkness will have sway: after the Rapture. God’s light will still be present on earth, of course, in the form of the Holy Spirit, though He will not indwell. It will be present in the form of the 144,000 witnesses. But those lights will be like the lights on the miner’s lamps in the deep earth, lit, but the darkness encroaching, waiting to pounce.
Then the end will come. Those who have refused the light will be forever plunged into that palpable, total, and horrifying darkness. There will be no light!! Do you understand what that means? The light bulb will be withdrawn for all eternity. Eternity is long to live without the light so many now take for granted.
I pray that you become a child of the light, not of darkness. You, right now, are benefiting from the Light of God on the earth even if you have not chosen to take him inside you through asking forgiveness of your dark sins. Yet, on that Day, comprehension will come too late. And you will have an eternity to comprehend the reasons why you did not reach out for what you now realize could have sustained you: His Light.